How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Eberron
The average gnoll bears a strong resemblance to the hyena (they often keep hyenas as pets). Naturally, most people are weary of a creature who shares similarities with a ravenous scavenger of the wild. And in most cases, they are right to be scared. Gnolls have made an effort to cast themselves as creatures to be feared. The pack structure in most of their clans lends itself to brutality and aggression. But over the past hundred years, gnolls have begun to do something that scares the elite more than brutality: they’re organizing.
There are many rumors to the origins of gnoll, but little fact. Some say they are the leftovers of the ancient rakshasa armies. Others say they are the escaped test subjects of evil druids. But even the gnolls have no answer (or interest, for that matter) in their beginnings. Gnoll culture is centered around the pack, and the pack is here and now. In fact, gnoll culture could be considered atheist (one popular gnoll myth is that they killed their god), and they only pay lip service to the Dark Six.
While mercenary and bandit work were a mainstay of the gnoll economy, that changed with the birth of the nation of Droaam. Most gnoll tribes in Khorvaire stayed away from civilized areas before the Last War, tending to raid rural communities or stay on grasslands. The largest concentration was around the savannahs of what was then southern central Breland, called “Znir” by the local tribes (an explicitly aggressive gnoll word for “Ours”). Brelish troops would keep the disorganized and squabbling tribes isolated to the region with little effort, and they were considered trivial by most military leaders. But when the Daughters of Sora Kell came down the slopes of Byeshk Mountains, they looked at the gnolls in a different light.
Foot soldiers are an essential part of any army, and the Sisters needed a substantial force to back up the heavy artillery (medusas, trolls, oni, etc.) they had assembled. Goblins were common to the area, but the Sisters knew from experience that goblins were only truly loyal to one thing: themselves. Gnolls could be reckless on an individual basis, but with a strong alpha leader, they would follow orders and stay loyal. So they approached the three most powerful clan chiefs, promptly killed the two they deemed unworthy, and demanded loyalty from the remaining. With their backing, Kerkek the Bloody returned to the tribes and described the Sisters’ offer: in return for their loyalty, they would hold power as the neutral policing force of the new nation of Droaam, and the foot soldiers against invasion if necessary. After a few days of bloodshed, Kerkek’s faction was victorious, and they named themselves after the deal: the Znir Pact.
Today, gnoll culture has grown around this Pact, insisting neutrality in all matters but the Sisters’ law, making them unpopular with the powerful in Droaam, but very popular with the marginal parts of the new society.